Any discussion about the Canadian Women's National Team will inevitably be centred around Christine Sinclair and her importance to the squad. Leading up to the 2015 World Cup I've decided to look at Christine Sinclair's performances from a statistical standpoint, but first there is an important discussion to be had about the roadbloacks that exist to using this type of analysis in the women's game.
Firstly, very little has been done publicly with women's football in terms of analyzing the value of things like a shot, a yellow card, a save etc. These things have different effects at different levels of the game and in different leagues so it is a reasonable assumption that in the women's game these effects may be different.
The second difficulty comes from the availability and reliability of the statistics available. The top female national teams in the World tend to play many more matches than their male counterparts. This means playing all over the world, and many of these matches are not televised or even reported on beyond a basic match report from a national soccer association. This makes finding data from these matches difficult and even if there are statistics available their accuracy may be in question.
Looking at Sinclair's output I've decided to use goals per ninety. This metric should help to avoid both of these potential problems. Scoring goals is the point of soccer, this doesn't change if it is men, women, fifteen-year-olds or sixty-year-olds playing. As for availability of data, the CSA provides minutes played and goals scored from every national team match for every player.
I have a slight suspicion that for some of the matches players are reported to have played the full 90 even if they were subbed off in the match. This would make all of the per ninety numbers slightly smaller in the data than they really are, but this shouldn't be too much of an issue, especially for an integral player like Sinclair who is rarely subbed off.
Throughout her career with the Canadian national team so far Christine Sinclair has racked up an absolutely astonishing 158 goals. As a reference point the entire Canadian Men's National team has scored 158 goals since May 27, 2000. Sinclair was given her national team debut in March of 2000, so she has roughly kept pace with the whole men's national team since then.
This gives Christine Sinclair a goals per ninety (number of goals per total number of minutes divided by ninety) of 0.74. This is up there with the best in world, which isn't surprising to anyone who follows the Canadian women and knows that Sinclair has been one of the best in the world. If coach John Herdman has a player who he can count on for three goals every four matches going into the World Cup next year he has to be feeling good. The problem is Herdman may not have this player.
Sinclair was the integral part of the Canadian Women's team that captured the attention of the nation in 2012 when they lost a heart breaker to the United States at the Olympics after Sinclair scored at hat-trick at Old Trafford. Since then the fan and media attention on this team has increased exponentially leading up to the World Cup. However, Sinclair is getting older, the level of competition in women's football worldwide is getting better and since the Olympics Sinclair's production levels reflect these two realities. Since that fateful game at the Olympics two years ago Sinclair's goals per ninety has dropped to 0.26.
This means the women's team essentially is half a goal worse off per game than they were when Sinclair was at her best. Take away half a goal per game from any team and they will struggle. Herdman seems to have realized this and is adjusting accordingly by offering more playing time to younger players and trying to ensure the team has a plan A, B and C heading into the World Cup. What is important to realize that Sinclair isn't the same Sinclair that was probably the best player in the World in 2012 and as a result Canada is not the same team they were when they won the Bronze Medal at the 2012 Olympics.
This summer's U-20 World Cup will be a good chance for Herdman to see how his younger forwards fare in a tournament environment, because although Sinclair is still an integral part of the National Team she can no longer be relied upon to score three goals in every four matches she plays.